Grand Prairie View by Jeff McSweeney
“You don’t always know what you’re going to be.” Really? Sounds a bit clichéd to me but when Steve Bobbitt told me this in the middle of our conversation, it could not be more fitting.
Steve is a life-long Peorian boasting that he was born July 6, 1953 at Methodist Hospital. He graduated from Richwoods, class of ’71, the same year “Maggie May” came out, took some college courses towards an engineering degree then hired on at Caterpillar where he worked in the Tech Center.
We have all seen him around town and to look at him one would think he has carried the Rod Stewart persona his entire life. “Not so,” says Steve, “around 1993 my hair started to go gray and instead of dying it black I went blonde.” Comparisons to Rod Stewart began immediately. He grew his hair out and with the help of some talented hair stylists solidified his future, commenting on this phenomenon Steve said, “It’s Rock-N-Roll, it’s all about the hair.”
Steve was member of a band in high school that emphasized Grand Funk Railroad tunes but he never really considered himself a singer. Soon after the blonde hair revolution a high school friend, Sue Anderson, who sang at the Brass Rail, asked him to fill in between sets to fill time. Even though he was admittedly a less-than-gifted singer at the time he gladly accepted and started a following of his own, which made Steve, the singer and the bar owner ecstatic. He worked on his singing talent and has grown considerably over the years.
Again, he adopted the persona in 1993 while still working at Caterpillar. “They were very supportive to me, especially since I was the odd guy out,” said Steve. In 2003 he accepted early retirement deciding to see what he could do with this identity.
He has met Rod Stewart many times over the years. The first time was when the iconic KZ93 hosted a contest for front row tickets to a concert at the MARK of the Quad Cities. Steve was part of the promotion and accompanied the winners on the trip. Steve learned what Rod was wearing on the tour, dressed in the same outfit and sat in the front row. Not knowing what to expect the band and Rod were very positive, especially when they welcomed the group backstage.
The band, The Young Turks, formed right after his retirement and in the years have developed a song list that could fill four hours. The band gets together for 10 to 12 events a year. They have performed at casinos, festivals, the Par-A-Dice several times, mostly throughout the mid-West.
As a solo act Steve has been to nearly every state in the union. He credits his association with Elvis impersonators for growing his notoriety. They have shown him how to market himself and have given him an outlet for his talents by being the master of ceremonies at numerous Elvis competitions.
While most of the songs appeal to fans of a certain age, those in their fifties, he is thrilled with Rod’s evolution over the years that allows him to sing a wide variety of music from classic rock to the standards. “Fans have come up to me after my concerts telling me they never knew Rod sang so many different songs and that they were going to buy his CDs,” said Steve. This is really handy for events that may feature many different generations, Rod’s songs are naturally popular but everybody enjoys the music as a whole.
In 2013 Peoria’s Young Professionals Organization pursued the All American City award featuring Steve and Rod’s classic, “Forever Young.” This project was a highlight of Steve’s life, being able to give back to a city he loves so much. See the video at: http://youtu.be/HanJnGg4ZP4
Steve’s calendar is typically full 8 months out, working mostly weekends. He is fortunate to work across the country performing in Las Vegas and especially Florida where he has an ideal fan base. His favorite songs to sing feature Rod’s classics, “Hot Legs” and “Stay with Me.”
Driving around Peoria during the Summer you may see Steve mowing lawns. “People get a kick out of seeing me mowing.” said Steve. “A buddy of mine, Dave Streitmatter, owns a lawn care company and years ago he asked me to help between gigs. It really helps me keep my tan and the customers brag, ‘Rod Stewart mows my lawn.’”
Being in the mobile digital age people don’t need to be in any one town but Steve loves Peoria and will never leave.
Steve is definitely novel material. His energy, optimism and life story are so Peoria.
Check out his website at: www.rodstribute.com and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grand Prairie View
Created as a vehicle to explore the people, places and events of Central Illinois that will provide the foundation of a novel, Grand Prairie View evolves. The elements featured in this column may or may not make the final novel, this is a vehicle for exploration and discovery.
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